My book choices were all over the place this month as you will see, but I promise if you make it all the way to the end of my ramblings, you will be rewarded. Here is what I read:
Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob I bought this on a whim because Garrett was making a purchase on Amazon and he wanted to get free shipping. I make a lot of purchases this way, actually. It makes sense at the time, you know! (And I wonder why I fail to save money.) Surprisingly though, this book was an inspiring read. I enjoyed that along with recipe writing and food critiquing there was a large focus on food blogging. I'm always happy when blogging as a subject matter is treated as "Real Writing." There were interviews with some of my favorite food bloggers and a lot of behind the scenes scoop about charting a career in food writing. Though I'm not sure I will go that route in the future, it did get my creative juices flowing. Also I finally admitted to myself the I have a fantasy about writing a food memoir. That may have been worth the $10 alone. It was a bargain for all the info inside, and such a quick and easy read. If you are interested in food writing in the slightest, definitely pick this up.
The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion I was gifted this book on two separate occasions and though I had started it many times, I had never been able to finish it. Even as someone who loves a heart-wrenching story of loss, in the past it had been a little bit intense for me and I would read a few pages and then put it down. I finally finished it and the truth is, there is nothing even slightly uplifting about the story of Didion's sudden loss of her husband while her daughter is fighting for her life in the hospital. I can't think of a more tragic tale, frankly, but what lifts this book are the poignant observations of moments of grief. In the past that is actually what made me need to put the book down -- her clarity is painfully accurate. This time I let myself read and absorb and admire her ability to articulate these things so close to the events. It was painful. I can't say that made me enjoy the book, but it did give me a great appreciation for Didion's experiences and her courage to harness her voice in such a dark time.
In a complete departure from Joan Didion, Tori Spelling's memoir about her crazy Hollywood life sort of left me at a crossroads. I have a guilty pleasure love for Tori Spelling but these last two books have been trite and a little bit derivative. And really? ENOUGH with the "Tori" puns. I am objecting to her new show sToribook Weddings on this principle alone. My god, it was funny the first time! I was actually going to do an I Read Celebrity Memoirs So You Don't Have To post on this book, but it was just too blah to even put in that much effort. I think it is time I put down the Tori Spelling books. Guess you will just have to wait for the Jesse James American Outlaw post for that. Yes, I totally DID check that out from the library. Let the douchery begin!
Longing for a little depth after the Tori Spelling fiasco, I picked up another grief memoir. God it is just feast or famine around here with the book choices this month, apparently. So many parts resonated strongly with me:
And as I was walking I thought: I will carry this wound forever. It's not a question of getting over it or healing. No; it's a question of learning to live with this transformation. For the loss is transformative, in good ways and bad, a tangle of change that cannot be threaded into the usual narrative spools. It is too central for that. It's not an emergence from the cocoon, but a tree growing around an obstruction.
If you could read the words on my heart surrounding the death of my father, it would be those. Reading that caused some serious waterworks. Along with this:
One of the ugly truths about a loss is that you don't just mourn the dead person, you mourn the person you got to be when the lost one was alive. This loss might even be what affects you most. Because many had not gone through a terrible loss or a major illness, they were still operating as planners, coordinators, under the star of entitlement, from which I had been abruptly banished. I had felt that, however benignly or unconsciously, the world around me wanted my grief stifled and silenced; it threatened a particular lie of the moment and class I lived in, the myth of self-improvement and control, the myth of meritocratic accomplishment leading to happiness and security. I drew close to those who'd gone through an experience that ruptured this way of seeing the world because those who hadn't often left me feeling keenly alone.
"...the myth of meritocratic accomplishment leading to happiness and security." This is EXACTLY what gets shattered when someone close to you dies. For me, realizing that it was a myth at the age of 19 was honestly the best and worst thing that ever happened to me. When I read that, I wept. Loss is so complex.
After two remarkably raw books about loss, I needed to read something that I KNEW would make me laugh. I hope you don't have any doubt that this book totally delivered. I mean honest to god Tina Fey is funny. This entire book I just kept thinking: Why are you not my BFF? There were a few things I didn't love though. She manages to write an entire book about herself without really revealing much, and she does it by constantly using self deprecating humor...which, I mean, fine -- it was a hoot. But I also think she is a super interesting and successful person so I would have loved it if she owned that a bit more and gave some insight instead of talking about all of her flaws. Overall though: HYSTERICAL. Just an absolute 10 on the funny scale. I especially enjoyed the parts on nail salons in New York. Ohmygod, I was rolling!
A novella followed by a collection of short stories, I found this book to only be ok. I enjoyed her book The Dive From Clausen's Pier, so when I read about this new collection of stories while flipping through O Magazine, I instantly reserved a copy at the library. I definitely didn't hate it, her prose is very nuanced and it is the kind of stuff that you read and think "Damn! She knows how to write!" But the stories also weren't the kind of stories that really called to me. There was one story that was a complete page turner but the end was so disappointing that I actually shouted -- REALLY? THAT'S IT? And then Garrett checked me into a mental hospital. Seriously though, I find I feel that way with a lot with short stories and I've acknowledged before that maybe it is just not my preferred genre -- but I just want to like it so badly! Besides every once in a while I come across a life changing set of short stories and that keeps the hope alive that maybe, just maybe, I will find another collection that I will love as thoroughly. This, however, was not that collection.
I almost feel bad that I am writing about this book last because it was by far the best book I read all month. I just love Susan Casey, but you already knew that. Really though, I kind of want to be her when I grow up. This book tells the story of Laird Hamilton and his posse of wave-chasing extreme surfers and juxtaposes it with scientific information about rogue waves, tsunamis, climate change -- heck there was even an entire chapter about insurance company Lloyd's of London and how they deal with shipwreck losses, which was right up my alley as an insurance geek. I just found this book totally engrossing. A worthwhile read if you have any curiosity about or fear of the ocean or have any desire to understand what makes Big Wave Surfers tick. Mother Nature is one fascinating protagonist.
So tell me: What did you read this month that rocked your world? My library queue is dying to know!